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Red Blossom Blog

Cakes vs. Loose Leaf: Types of Pu-erh Tea

Cakes vs. Loose Leaf: Types of Pu-erh Tea

Shopping for pu-erh can be confusing. With the added variables of age and fermentation, pu-erh is one of the most diverse categories of tea, and the growing popularity of the style only makes it easier to find bad examples. Since shopping for pu-erh can feel like a guessing game, it’s tempting to look for signs of quality in simple visual distinctions, like whether the tea is pressed into a cake or left in loose form. So what can we really tell about the tea from the way it is packaged?

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Where Does the Best White Tea Come From?

Where Does the Best White Tea Come From?

White teas have only gotten more and more popular with each year we’ve been in the tea business. Amid western marketing that promotes a wide range of health benefits and the modern affluence of Chinese connoisseurs, the demand for traditional white tea has skyrocketed, and continues to increase with each new harvest. As with most “famous” teas, this demand long ago outpaced the supply from the traditional farms that earned the famed reputation in the first place. Today, many white teas are grown outside the traditional region of Fuding County, Fujian, but purists consider these to be imitations, even if they're made with traditional crafting methods.

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Is Monkey Picked Tea Really Picked By Monkeys?

Is Monkey Picked Tea Really Picked By Monkeys?

For drinkers of Chinese tea, the label “Monkey Picked” is a familiar one, typically applied to oolong teas made from the Tieguanyin variety in Anxi County, Fujian. Today, with the moniker applied to a vast range of teas within this style, it seems fairly obvious that it has taken on a poetic meaning, meant to imply information about the style and quality of the tea rather than offer factual information about the harvesting process. Certainly, tea farms in Anxi County don’t really depend on teams of monkeys to pluck their valuable leaves...do they?

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Which Green Teas Taste Best?

Which Green Teas Taste Best?

Thanks in part to highly lauded health benefits, the popularity of green tea has exploded worldwide. Backed by promises of weight loss, anti-aging capabilities, and the novelty of a natural bright green color, green tea has become a trending ingredient in everything from cookies and cakes to lattes and protein shakes. But few of these concoctions gives center stage to the green tea itself, instead blending (often powdered) leaves with fillers, sweeteners, or other strong flavors to mask the inherent bitterness of mass-produced teas.

Troubleshoot bitter tea flavors with these brewing tips >>

Unfortunately, the small quantities used for subtle green tea flavor are rarely enough to offer the promised benefits, and the quantity of butter and sugar in a green tea cookie will more than offset the metabolism-boosting effects of the powdered tea that makes it green. To get the most from any green tea, it must be a regular habit, drunk without added flavors or sweeteners. Luckily, this doesn't mean you have to choke down a bitter brew. Find green teas that taste good naturally by asking about these flavor factors:

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A Brief History of Longjing Tea

A Brief History of Longjing Tea

Longjing, literally translated as "Dragonwell", is now one of China’s most famous and storied teas. Like other whole leaf styles, the pan-roasted green tea, or something like it, was probably first made during the Ming Dynasty, when powdered teas went out of fashion among members of high society. But it was not until the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, in the later Qing Dynasty, that longjing tea was deemed worthy for imperial tribute and ultimately, international fame.

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What is Gyokuro Tea?

What is Gyokuro Tea?

Gyokuro tea is one of Japan’s most famous styles, prized as the highest grade of sencha, or whole leaf tea. Though not as famous worldwide as the powdered matcha used in traditional Japanese Tea Ceremonies, the reputation and limited supply of gyokuro tea make it one of the most expensive and uncommon varieties from Japan.

In part, the value of gyokuro tea rests in the delicate leaf buds it is made from, just like premium green teas from other regions around the world. The first sprouts picked after winter dormancy are prized all over the world for the complex flavors and natural sweetness that are given time to develop as the plant rests. Gyokuro tea is further defined by the processes used to grow and craft these special leaves, which distinguish it from other green teas made around the world and from lesser grades grown in Japan.

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The Truth About Wild Tea

The Truth About Wild Tea

For tea, just as with other commodities like wine, whiskey, or coffee, the most coveted examples are usually the rarest. The allure of any batch that is difficult to find lies in unique flavor complexities, as well as the ever-present draw of exclusivity. In the same way that wine connoisseurs might search for bottles from a legendary vineyard, tea devotees hunt for the leaves from hard-to-find tea trees.

Teas harvested from wild trees, for example, are highly sought after. Most of the hype surrounds pu-erh teas, grown in Yunnan Province in southern China, where ancient tea trees are thought to have originated in the vast, tropical forest of millennia past. But many teas from all over China are sold as “wild” teas, and as with any widespread label, this term can carry a few different meanings. Here are three different types of tea plants that are commonly called "wild".

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Types of Oolong Tea: Nong Xiang vs. Qing Xiang

Types of Oolong Tea: Nong Xiang vs. Qing Xiang

Throughout the long history of tea in China, crafting methods have evolved and diverged to create the vast array of styles we know today. One such shift has transformed the colors and flavors of oolong teas within the last century, fundamentally changing the world’s definition of what makes a good oolong.

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What is Jin Jun Mei Tea?

What is Jin Jun Mei Tea?

Jin Jun Mei is a unique black tea. It comes from Tongmu Village, whose natural terroir is protected as part of the Wuyishan Nature Reserve. The volume of tea that can be grown here is limited both by the rough terrain, as well as by the area’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tongmu is also the traditional home of smoked Lapsang Souchong black tea, but the production of that older style has now been replaced by the more profitable Jin Jun Mei.

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Is Chinese Tea Farming Fair Trade?

Is Chinese Tea Farming Fair Trade?

Commodity products, including tea, have come under increased scrutiny during the past few decades for the exploitative labor practices often used in production. Understandable consumer concerns have led to the development and success of several fair trade certification programs, which seek to increase equity in international trade by encouraging dialogue and transparency in the sourcing process. These are undeniably noble and worthwhile goals, and the movement has seen great success in improving wages and working conditions for laborers, especially in industries like coffee and cocoa.

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